4,000 days.

I look at you now and I see the 6th grade you. The one who put notes in my locker and sang songs with me in chorus. The one who was afraid to say hello.

I look at you now and see that same boy, that same love. And my heart says it remembers, too.

It remembers those deep hazel eyes that have locked with mine one million times, and even as a kid when you looked at me, I felt you.

I knew you were different. That you saw me.

I love our love and our story.

Every twist and turn and moment of pain, connected to so many moments of joy and celebration.

I love our love.

I love that it’s as deep as it is wide and that it never gets old.

I love that you never try to change me and the way you love our daughters. Growing old with you is becoming my favorite thing in life.

Experience the things.

This summer while in Barbados, Reid and I were inspired when we heard someone say they gave their kids an experience for their birthday, rather than buying them a gift to unwrap. With Sadler’s 7th birthday right around the corner, I put a plan in motion.

She loves rocks. Both our girls do. In fact, they’ll pick up driveway gravel and swear it’s a crystal, toting it around in their pocket and forgetting about it until it ends up in the washing machine and I give it back to them.

I Googled the best places for gem mining in the NC mountains and we decided to go to Hendersonville. Searching for an Airbnb in Hendersonville returned few options, but I was immediately and repeatedly drawn to this one . So, I booked it.

I think leading up to the trip, Sadler was most excited for alone time with Reid and I. Having more than one child is a beautiful thing, but it became seemingly easy for us over the last 3.5 years to lose sight of Sadler as an individual. Admittedly, I was very much looking forward to time alone with her.

The back seat of the truck is much quieter with only half our crew back there. She read. She watched movies. She gazed out the window at the mountain landscapes. No one to bicker with. No one to compete with our affection. Just her.

Our hosts were most accommodating. We arrived and they were waiting to hand us the key. Their poodle, Kai, greeted us with so much excitement as we exited the truck to stretch our legs.

We explored the property for a bit with the homeowners and I found myself in awe of Sadler’s bravery. Her zeal for adventure. Her heart to explore and run and be free.

There were baby frogs everywhere, and Sadler made it her mission to pick up every single one she could while exploring this 150 acres of heaven.

Don’t let the name fool you; although the Airbnb link calls it “Zirconia”, we’d learn soon enough that we were in Tuxedo. And that only recently in the 1990s did the postal service even recognize this area with addresses. The homeowners refused to called it Zirconia. Was and always will be Tuxedo to them.

For dinner we drove 20 miles “into town” and discovered that Hendersonville is a precious place. It offers a Mayberry feel and dinner at Never Blue didn’t disappoint.

I slept better than I’ve slept in weeks. Since our two bedrooms were on opposite ends of the house, Sadler chose her Daddy to sleep with her and I had a room all to myself. With the windows open, the midnight storm put me right into tranquility. The breezes were scented with mountain air and they were perfect.

In true travel fashion, I peeked my head out the window to see the sunrise. Unfortunately, it rose behind us, so I enjoyed some extra sleep. Reid and I had coffee and quiet outside facing the mountains while Sadler slept.

We enjoyed fresh baked muffins, fruit and OJ from our hosts and grabbed our fishing poles. Sadler has never been fishing before. It wasn’t her thing. The bass were biting, and Reid and I each caught a couple. Meanwhile, Sadler held a frog…the entire time. I’m not sure how long it took her to figure out that it took its last breath while tucked away in her sweaty palm, but we had a moment as we placed it in the water to float away and blessed its little life and time with Jesus that it would soon receive.

The homeowners graciously took us on yet another trek around their land, pointing out which mushrooms were edible, all the variations of wild orchid, and telling us about the history of the land. We were very surprised to learn that most of their guests opt not to explore. I highly recommend it if you visit yourself. They are kind and willing and honestly seemed honored to show us around.

We hiked through this temperate rainforest (literally) to discover a waterfall. The sounds of nature humming and buzzing and moving around presented peace in every sense of the word. Sadler was fearless as she hopped over downfallen trees, stretched over the water from rock to rock and followed our leader with intent and grace. I became overwhelmed with emotion watching her and loved every minute.

Soon enough, we’d be back at the house packing our stuff to check out and head to the gem mines. It only took a few minutes of watching before Sadler was an expert at sifting through the dirt to pull out her treasures. She loved every minute.

I didn’t get a picture of her final finds, and only took videos of her sifting through them. But trust me when I say, it was well worth the drive to experience this with her. Elijah Mountain Gem Mining did not disappoint.

I hope that Reid and I have started a tradition. Birthdays come with so much stuff (that we are very grateful for) and our girls already have more than they need. Why not experience this beautiful life with them instead? Why not travel and try new things and make memories. It blessed our whole family, indeed.

Your life is a gift, Sadler Mae. Thank you for your heart and the way you love others. Thank you for your kindness and teachable spirit. What a blessing you are to so many. It’s an honor to be your mama.

One More Day

I took a trip to the Greensboro Farmers Curb Market today. If you follow me on Instagram, you likely know that because my feed and story were flooded with it (sorry…not sorry).

I forgot about this place. I hadn’t been since I was a kid, and midweek I decided I’d go early on Saturday.

While Reid was with Sadler at swim team practice, Everly and I made the short drive to the old War Memorial Stadium. We parked and walked across the street to find a good crowd, even better vibes, and lots of smiling folks.

Everly lasted about a half hour and started begging to go home. With two heirloom tomatoes, two cucumbers, a soap sample, and a Citronella plant in hand, we walked back to the car and I drove her home. I grabbed my favorite bag perfect for more market finds and headed back out–alone this time.

For all my fellow mama friends, y’all know the feeling. Being alone doing just about anything becomes somewhat like magic. But being able to browse and buy and make real conversation with a stranger is a precious thing to me.

I scored some homemade laundry soap, a soy candle, peaches, a beautiful bouquet of wildflowers, grits and ginger pancake mix, and some goat cheese.

I was met with warm smiles, solid eye contact and just enough southern charm to remind me how much I love North Carolina.

Two old men and one lady referred to me as “cute”. I smiled and said “thank you”.

As I leisurely walked back to my car, I recalled all of the baseball games I went to at that old stadium. Remembered the summer my dad played. And I thought of Mama Dot.

Mama Dot and Papa Fred (the best great-grandparents that ever did live) lived just a few minutes away. As I drove home, I felt an urge to go by their old house. They’ve been gone for 9 years now, and visiting their old house hasn’t been something I could do until today.

Without being too much of a creep, I pulled over just long enough to take a few pictures. The memories started to rush through my mind as I sat there.

The driveway I rode my bike down 500 times and scraped my knee.

The rose bush by the road I would smell near the wood fence at the top of the driveway.

The garage doors that led to Papa’s favorite place to be, filled with tinkerings and lawn mowers and tools for days. Those garage doors used to have an iron rooster and hen hanging over them. Thanks to an amazing person in my life, those now hang in my kitchen.

The mailbox that I remember watching be made. I was fascinated as each stone was stacked so perfectly, like a puzzle. All the mail I fetched from it over the years.

The basement door that led to “under the house”, where you’d find a small grocery store filled with canned goods. Plenty to last two winters.

I’d give anything to have one more day with them.

For them to meet my children.

To sit around their kitchen table and eat a tomato sandwich and daydream as Mama Dot would say, “a penny for your thoughts…”

To write Papa’s checks so he could pay his bills.

To help Mama Dot make one more banana pudding.

For one more “wowee” kiss and one more bedtime prayer.

To hear her complain about the rusted water tower a block away. (I wonder what she thinks about it now, because it looks much worse today than it ever did then)

As I write these words, I taste the salty tears that are dripping down my cheeks.

Knowing they are both with Jesus is a reason to smile, and remembering all those good days I was blessed to have with them is a reminder of many things.

A reminder to love better. To be kinder. To walk slower.

A reminder to take time to really know people. To cherish family and to be a good friend.

A personal challenge to see my kids the way God sees them. To love my husband deeper and to keep clinging onto hope that life only gets sweeter as relationships deepen.

One more day would not be enough, but it sure would be a plenty.

This side of town will always be special to me. I’ve watched Revolution Mill transform from a busy place where many worked long hours, to an empty space with unused potential, and now to a thriving retail and corporate facility.

The word “love” is in the word Revolution. Backwards, but it’s there. I kind of like that.

Love really is all you need.

The Best Advice I’ve Ever Gotten.

Yesterday was our 8-year wedding anniversary. Last night after dinner, the four of us sat down to watch our wedding video. As our girls sat one on each side of me and Reid lay on the couch behind us, we enjoyed moments of laughter, silence, and even a few tears (one guess who shed those). I found myself touched deeply as I listened to the words spoken over us, the words we spoke to each other, and I thought about how far we’ve come in the last 8 years. We are stronger, wholer, and happier than we have ever been.

This morning I listened to a podcast while I got ready for work. I do that on most mornings. I’ve been intentional this year about filling my time with things that feed my spirit, renew my mind and help me grow. Today I listened to a sermon that was recommended to me several weeks back. The title was “How to Get Healthy” by Dr. Les Parrott.

While the title may indicate otherwise, he talked about relationships. And I listened to him give one bit of advice that I replayed over and over. I wrote it down. And I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it.

If you try to build intimacy with another person before you have gotten whole on your own, all of your relationships will become an attempt to complete yourself.

This. These words. This is the reason my marriage is strong today. This is the reason our relationship has grown and is still growing.

We are getting whole on our own.

How often in a relationship do we find ourselves disappointed because the other person doesn’t make us happy? How often do we fall flat on our face in a relationship and only blame the other person?

Radical candor right here.

I’m fasting social media through Lent. But this was worth sharing.

We live in a culture that’s riddled with broken relationships. Marriages are in trouble. People are lost. I can think of so many people in my circle who I pray will read these words. I know if I had heard them years ago, we’d have fast tracked to this place much sooner. And it’s inspiring me to be even better, love even more compassionately and hold myself even more accountable.

So good.

Real Talk.

Parenting is hard. Such a short sentence packed with so much truth and vulnerability…

Before I begin, let me say that I am beyond grateful for both of my children. As a woman who was told “children won’t be likely”, I can assure you that not a day goes by that I don’t thank God for them. I often look into their eyes and feel awe and a sense of wonder and feel just downright lucky that they are mine to care for. I often get a lump in my throat when I think about how far we’ve come.

Soon after Sadler was born almost 7 years ago, someone told me, “if parenting is easy, you aren’t doing it right.”

Reid and I have been in a season with Everly lately that has tested every bit of patience we’ve prayed for and has aroused every ounce of fear hiding in the shadows of my mind that say, “You’re not doing enough”, “You’re not a good mom.”, “You’ll never measure up.” Yes, we know what happens when you pray for patience. You don’t get patience, you get opportunities to *be patient*. And I have not passed all the tests.

There’s an ebb and flow of emotion, where I find myself smiling while encapsulated in their voices and stories one moment, and biting my lip in a fit of anger in the next. In the blink of an eye, it all seems to go awry sometimes.

Thankfully, there is an awareness that continues to sweep over me and I catch myself often before this happens. But it still happens from time to time, and lately it’s been happening almost every night at bedtime.

I will be the first to admit that mornings at 5AM when the house is quiet and I can sit in stillness and peace, I’m at my best. But bedtime has come to be the part of the day that I absolutely dread. I literally anticipate whats to come and work myself up to thinking it will be different this time. And by the time we are ready to say our prayers, I’m literally crying as I ask for forgiveness for losing my temper.

Tonight at gymnastics, I talked about our 3-year-old bedtime tantrums with a fellow mama/friend/family member —one who happens to have *double* the amount of children we do and often comes to mind when I feel like *I’ve* got a lot on my plate. (She literally is my parenting hero.) We swapped stories and laughed as we shared book titles that have been recommended to us through the years. It was encouraging to be reminded that we aren’t alone, and to also be validated in our thinking that whomever dubbed the “terrible twos” as the hardest part of toddlerhood got it WAY WRONG.

Tonight after dinner, a wave of peace and confidence came over me. Bath (shower) time was actually enjoyable rather than a fight. We sang. We laughed. We acted silly.

I decided to read one my all time favorites to them, “The Velveteen Rabbit”. They recently watched the movie so Sadler was eager to spot the differences between the book and the movie. Everly assisted with turning the pages and we made it about 3/4 the way through before I could tell they were getting sleepy. We decided we’d finish it tomorrow night, said our prayers and tucked in for bed.

As I read my favorite part of the book, I couldn’t help but think how God is using this season of my life to make something real out of me. Yes, my outward appearance may be wearing down in the making, and I may feel tired and defeated at the end of a day, but he’s awakening my heart and bringing me to life.

It’s easy to think when we scroll through social media that those people and families we see “have it all together”. That their lives are only made up of what is shown in the pictures they post. That they are perfectly designed so they won’t break and are full of knowledge of things and places, much like those toys The Skin Horse refers to.

Maybe you look at me and think I’m all put together, too. I am here to tell you that I am most certainly not. I am fragile, I break easily and sometimes my edges are sharp. But if there is one thing I’ve learned to be true, God uses all things for good for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28) Ever so slowly, He is turning me into something real and full of life, and that takes time.

I know I will look back on these moments with my kids and laugh. That I will miss the simplicity of bedtime struggles when life hands me something new in another season.

I am optimistic that just sharing this story with you will free me from expectations tomorrow night and will give me a new perspective when I’m faced with a bedtime challenge. I am thankful that even amidst the struggle, there is always a shimmer of beauty amongst the strife.

As I snuck upstairs to snap a pic of these pages in the book, there they lay. Sound asleep. Peaceful. Content. Quiet. The light from the bedside table looked like the view from inside a diamond as it gleamed around the room.

We’ve got much to be thankful for.

10 Things No One Told Me Before Having a Baby

This post won’t be for the faint at heart. Or for people who don’t like hearing (or talking) about bodily fluids, pregnancy and childbirth. If that’s you, I warned you.

If that’s not you, and you have a curious and open mind to the best mama advice I’ve got, I hope you enjoy the next 4 minutes of your life as you read over this list. And maybe share it with a friend who needs it. Lord knows I wish somebody had told me all this stuff.

Secret # 1:

Your blood pressure will drop significantly after the baby is born and YOU WILL BE FREEZING COLD. I recall being in a hoodie and sweatpants underneath 2 blankets in July, sitting in our leather recliner with my 4 day old baby. It was super strange.

Secret # 2:

If you have a C-section, it’s totally normal to pass a blood clot the size of a cantaloupe. I literally pulled the emergency cord in the hospital bathroom because I thought my liver fell into the toilet. When the nurse came running in to see if I was dying, she explained all this with that “Bless your heart” look about her. I didn’t find it very funny at the time, but will admit I felt much better after freeing this mass of dried blood from my body. Not to mention, several of my husbands MALE coworkers were in the hospital room and heard the whole thing happen. Kind of them to show up with Chick-Fil-A? Yes. Would I have preferred to experience that alone? Most definitely.

Secret # 3:

Breastfeeding is REALLY hard in the early days. But it gets easier after 2 weeks. The desire to throw in the towel will come early on, but if you set small goals to just make it through one feeding at a time, before you know it you’ll be on your way to painless, beautifully enjoyable and bonding nursing sessions with your tiny human. Lean on your support (by support I mean, all those friends you have that have done it before, ask them. Women who breastfed their babies usually LOVE to talk about their experience and will help you in a skinny minute). Have tons of grace with yourself. If the lactation consultant tells you to try a different position, trust them. If they suggest you try the nipple shield, try it. If your nipple looks like a tube of lipstick when the baby stops drinking, you’re doing it wrong and they can help with that. Trust me, it hurts like hell to keep letting them make lipstick nipples out of you.

Secret # 4:

Postpartum depression is NO JOKE. Be vigilant about noticing changes in your emotions and make sure your partner is aware enough to recognize changes in your mood and behavior, too. Locking yourself in the bathroom to cry with a newborn in your arms is OK, even if you have a house full of people waiting to hold the baby. But staying in there all day and doing it again the next day could mean it’s time to call your doc. Placenta encapsulation was a game-changer for me the second time around. If you have considered this, my advice is: It’s the best $200 you will ever spend on yourself. Just don’t forget to tell the nurses you want to keep your placenta. They may throw it out pretty quickly otherwise.

Secret # 5:

With regard to #4, saying NO to visitors is OK and encouraged. It’s a big life adjustment and you need all the alone time with the new human you just pushed out that you can possibly get. I am pretty sure my precious Grandparents are still upset with me because they were at our house in the driveway when we pulled up with our first baby six years ago. Grateful that they were there with lunch and cared enough to come visit? Of course I was. But having time to get in and get settled would have been nice, too. I’d have been much more engaged and present during their visit had it been just a few hours later. I had no idea what I was doing as a parent and had literally just been cut open from hip bone to hip bone 3 days before. (Love you Granny and Papa – please forgive me for seeming ungrateful. I promise I was just trying to figure out my new life and needed some space.)

Secret # 6:

Sleep when the baby sleeps. Everyone says that, I know. And it kind of sounds like annoying advice before you actually have the baby, but it really is true. While I was on maternity leave, I was slightly delusional to think I’d craft like Martha Stewart, start a business, and have a hot dinner on the table for my husband every day when he came home from work. I was lucky if I showered every other day and yoga pants and maternity tanks were the only laundry I had to worry about for myself. For 3 months.

Secret # 7:

If you have a C-section, you may experience the most gruesome pain AFTER you get home. I remember for at least a week after coming home from the hospital, every time I would sit down on the toilet to pee, a terrifying pain would shoot from my tailbone up to the middle of my back. The first time it happened I literally wailed as if I was being stabbed. It happened 2 dozen more times but seemed to lessen in severity over a week or so. I was told this was an after effect of the spinal block given to numb me before the incision, but I didn’t expect it. (I could see how an epidural would cause this also, but it didn’t happen to me with my second delivery.)

Secret # 8:

If you are fortunate enough to exclusively breastfeed your baby, know that it’s normal for them to go several days without pooping. And when they do poop, be ready. Hot, yellow, vinegary mess of a load it will be. But no need to be alarmed if a week passes between BMs. The way it was explained to me: breastmilk is so nutritious, there is very little waste for them to get rid of. Their bodies use almost all of your milk.

Secret # 9:

When you change their diaper, if you use a changing table, alternate the direction you lay them each time. They will naturally want to look at you while you change them, and if you lay them the same way ever time, you run the risk of causing their head to flatten on one side. Using the couch or bed and laying them directly in front of you works well, too.

Secret # 10:

When you go into labor, it may feel like you have to poop. With my second, I woke up at 3AM, rolled my giant body out of bed and waddled to the bathroom “to poop”. And then 20 minutes later…again. And then 10 minutes later… again. After an hour, I texted my husband who was sleeping upstairs because I was beyond the point of being an enjoyable bed partner, to tell him I thought I was in labor. After pacing laps around our living room and kitchen for another hour, my water broke and we had s baby soon after.

Don’t let any of this stuff freak you out. Having a baby is the greatest miracle I’ve ever known. It’s all worth it in the end, I promise.

Happy Secret Anniversary, Babe

Eight years ago today, Reid and I got married at the Guilford County Courthouse. We invited my great-grandparents, our grandparents and parents as witnesses.

A wedding date was set for 3/11/11 in Riviera Maya, Mexico. (Anyone who knows my husband can deduce that choosing to be married on 3/11/11 was quite intentional. 311 is his favorite band and I figured he’d never forget our anniversary with a date like that. True story.)

We told very few people about our November 4th nuptials. I don’t even think my brother and sister knew this. We chose this date because it also happened to be Reid’s grandmothers birthday. Cecilia passed when he was a teenager and with his own birthday being the day before, we knew it would be a day we’d never forget.

We have pictures somewhere, but I couldn’t find them today when I briefly looked for them. Mind you, this was before the iPhone and someone actually took film to the store to be developed, which seems unfathomable nowadays. I’m sure my heart will swell when I find them one day.

I’m grateful for everyone who was there to witness our marriage that afternoon, but my heart is extra-grateful for the presence of my great-grandparents. Mama Dot and Papa Fred were precious to me. Mama Dot was “my person”. They showed up in their Sunday’s best and I could see the joy on their faces as they watched us marry one another. They really did love my husband.

Papa Fred gave us this as a wedding gift. I’m pretty sure he cut it out of the Readers Digest. And I’m also pretty sure it was the only gift he ever gave me all on his own. He loved Reid, and he was happy that I was happy. He was happy that I was starting a life with someone he knew would love and cherish me as he had for my whole life. He was proud to stand with us on that day eight years ago.

We knew they’d never be able to travel to Mexico. But what we didn’t know was that they’d both pass before our Mexico wedding ever took place. Papa died on December 15th and just 18 days later on January 2nd, Mama Dot followed behind.

I put their photos in a locket given to me by Mama Dot a year or so before she passed. My Dad had it in his pocket as he walked me down the aisle and handed it to Reid, who clasped it around my neck. They were there with me that day, and it couldn’t have been anymore special.

So, Happy Anniversary to you, babe. I’m sure Mama Dot is eating watermelon and watching “wrasslin'” today as she smiles down on us. And Papa is telling stories to someone and cracking jokes I’m sure.

What I wouldn’t give for one more meal around their supper table.

Counting blessings never seemed to come easy when you were only a phone call away. I sure do miss y’all. But I know that you know, Reid’s doing a fine job taking care of me. And you sure would love our girls.